Contentious trusts and probate in Scotland

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP's broad client range comprises executors, beneficiaries, administrators and trustees, as well as shareholders and solicitors. The team is notable for its expertise handling complex contentious matters, including legal rights claims, disputes arising from the death of family members intestate, and disagreements concerning inheritance tax between executors and beneficiaries. The dual-qualified Mark Stewart, who sits as Convenor of the Law Society of Scotland's panel for trust law, handles the full range of estate, succession and tax planning matters. Recently promoted partner Angela McCulloch has a niche in advising financial institutions on trust and executry disputes.

Practice head(s):

Mark Stewart

Other key lawyers:

Angela McCulloch


‘Alan Barr provides excellent, clear and concise advice with a wide perspective.’

Work highlights

  • Represented husband in challenging will of his late wife.
  • Represented executors in defending a highly contentious legal rights claim.
  • Represented two beneficiaries in a highly contentious executry where assets were undervalued by the sole executor.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Gillespie Macandrew LLP's practice has a strong focus on advising family partnerships in the rural and land sector on complex legal rights claims and the duties and rights of liferents of such trusts. The practice is also known for its work on the interpretation of wills on behalf of beneficiaries, and handling complex tax issues concerning inheritance tax, agricultural property relief and business property relief. Eilidh G Adams has a niche handling estates with foreign elements, such as the application of the EU Succession Regulation, and advising on the impact of marriage and divorce on the revocation of foreign wills.

Practice head(s):

Agnes Mallon

Other key lawyers:

Elilidh Adams


‘The Gillespie Macandrew team do everything in their power to ensure the success of mediation in these difficult and longstanding disputes, including thorough preparation, excellent accommodation and expert representation.’ 

‘Sarah-Jane MacDonald helps clients maximise the value of mediation. She ably demonstrates the key skills of mediation advocacy – selecting the mediators; preparing the parties; providing representation and expert advice on the mediation day; and excellent follow-up to ensure matters are fully resolved.’

‘John Stirling always goes the extra mile to ensure we are well informed and adequately protected.’

‘Alan White and Eilidh Adams are excellent in their commitment to get things done – they are honest without pushing for extra expensive routes.’

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser's practice frequently represents executors in conflicts with other executors over their legal duties, and also acts for beneficiaries, individuals with Power of Attorney and trustees, often in matters where the clients are seeking to recover loans or entitlements owed to them. The firm has additional expertise proving the tenor of lost wills, and acting in unusual cross-jurisdictional matters including a trust variation case in the Court of Session. Private client head Sue Hunter, a qualified financial adviser, advises clients on the efficient structuring of business assets and acts for some of the firm's most significant commercial clients.

Practice head(s):

Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Work highlights

  • We are regularly instructed to raise court action to prove the tenor of Wills and other testamentary writings which have been lost.
  • We acted for our client in defending a Court of Session action for reduction of confirmation and to interdict him from acting as executor.
  • We were instructed by an executor to force his joint executor to progress the administration of his late father’s estate.
  • We were instructed to recover a debt due to our clients from their late son’s estate.
  • Acting for the executors and the beneficiary of an estate to recover loans made by the deceased and to defend an action raised against the executors for payment of sums purportedly due by the estate on termination of a lease.

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern 's 'well-organised and efficient' team frequently acts in contentious executry matters for beneficiaries pursuing or defending claims, and has additional expertise of seeking rectification of documents, such as wills and dispositions, on the basis that they were created under undue influence. Another area of specialism is the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, an area in which a range of claims are handled for individuals and the Office of the Public Guardian. Solicitor-advocate Katrina Lumsdaine has a great track record in court and recently managed to secure the first rectification of a will since the Succession (Scotland) Act 2016.

Practice head(s):

John Peutherer

Other key lawyers:

Katrina Lumsdaine


‘Anderson Strathern is, in my experience, among the best litigation firms in Scotland.’

‘A good team; well drilled, with meticulous preparation.’

‘Carole Tomlinson is calm, organised, pleasant, knows her own field very well and deploys the firm’s other capabilities to good effect.’

‘Liam Smith anticipates needs and delivers on time and has a good eye for detail.’

‘Gary Burton is an impressive solicitor, possessing good analytical skills and being very well organised, efficient and approachable.’

Key clients

Smith & Grant

Harper Robertson & Shannon

Masson & Glennie

Gray & Connachie

O’Donnell & Co

Office of the Public Guardian

Work highlights

  • Acting for the trustees of a high value family trust, seeking variation of the trust, in an action in the Court of Session.
  • Acting for the grandchildren of the deceased in respect of a claim for reduction of a will.
  • Successfully raised a petition in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on behalf of a client and two other individuals to have them appointed as trustees, following the death of all named trustees over several years.

Murray Beith Murray

Murray Beith Murray advises members of family trusts with vested business interests on complex disputes, as well as beneficiaries in a range of matters that includes entitlement to estates, succession planning, legal rights claims and challenges to wills based on alleged undue influence. The team also has a dedicated rural property group, which is now headed up by Andrew Linehan, who joined from Lindsays - where he also led the rural property team - in September 2019. Linehan works alongside senior partner Hugh Younger, who advised on land transactions totalling more than £15m in 2018. Both Carole Hope and Sandy Burnett have recently retired but continue to work with the firm as consultant solicitors.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Linehan; Hugh Younger


‘Andrew Linehan always manages to provide first rate advice on the agricultural tenancy front, in a way that’s concise and easy to understand. He’s always reachable and you can depend on him to turn things round very quickly.’

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn represents executors, beneficiaries, trustees and high street banks, and has a clear focus on disputes concerning the administration of estates that arise between executors and beneficiaries. The practice, which is led by Christopher McGill, also has expertise handling legal rights claims, some of which include cross-border elements, interpreting and challenging wills, and resolving complex tax disputes, especially those concerning family businesses. Associate Stephanie Hepburn has a niche managing executry disputes relating to the inheritance of agricultural and crofting tenancies.

Practice head(s):

Christopher McGill

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Hepburn

Work highlights

  • Representing a client in relation to a challenge to late mother’s will by brother.
  • Representing a client in relation to potential fraudulent intromissions with mother’s estate by elder brother and executor, who made payments via mobile banking from the mother’s estate during her lifetime.
  • Acting for the executors of an estate who claim that the deceased’s financial attorneys used the funds of the deceased’s estate for personal gain and the enrichment of their families.
  • Acting for the executor of an estate in negotiating the administration of concurrent family estates, complicated by the fact the beneficiaries of both estates disagree on factors including the calculation of legal rights, the nature of foreign joint property and survivorship destinations in the event of their passing.

Turcan Connell

Turcan Connell's team acts for executors, beneficiaries and trustees, handling disputes arising from payments or assets owed to clients, inheritance tax implications, alleged breach of contract and complex undue influence matters, including seeking reduction of a will on the basis of lack of capacity and forgery. 'Patient and  personable' practice head Peter Littlefield takes a 'common sense approach' to advising clients on tax and estate planning, including post-death tax planning, while associate Paul Forrester Smith specialises in contentious matters.

Practice head(s):

Peter Littlefield; David Ogilvy

Other key lawyers:

Paul Forrester Smith


“Peter Littlefield has a very common sense approach and is alive to reputational concerns. His approach achieves results with his opponents so that cases can be resolved quickly and without huge legal fees. “

“Peter Littlefield is superb. He removes all emotion from arguments, sticks to the facts, and is forceful when necessary. ” 

‘Turcan Connell is excellent at explaining the differences between Scottish law and England & Wales, the solicitors are very approachable and they provide excellent advice.’

‘Peter Littlefield provides excellent legal advice – he is patient and very personable.’

Work highlights

  • Pursued a claim for the residuary beneficiary of an estate for loss relief following the client’s missed opportunity to claim inheritance tax relief due to the executor’s failure to advise them to do so.
  • Acting for the executor and beneficiary of an estate, seeking to return the estate to the position it was in prior to gifts being made in excess of £1m by the other executor and beneficiary, despite the fact they lacked the power to do so.
  • Acting for several national charities which are the residuary beneficiaries of an estate, seeking to recover the sale proceeds from a property that was subject to a specific legacy.